The Curtain never parts for viewers of this autobiographical portrait

The Sugar Curtain

on July 27, 2007 by Annlee Ellingson
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Born in Santiago de Chile in 1971, Camila Guzman Urzua and her family moved to Havana when she was 2, where, thanks to the Revolution, they were offered a furnished apartment and full citizenship. Urzua was fortunate to grow up in an era when she and her schoolmates were dubbed the Pioneers of Communism and vested with the education, resources and vision to carry their utopian socialist society into the future. To her, Cuba was a paradise, free of currency, unemployment and religion. “I remember being very happy,” she says. It was just as she left the island country in 1990 that she had begun to chafe under the system's bureaucracy, “voluntary work” and intolerance.

In this extremely personal documentary, Urzua returns to Cuba to reminisce about what once was and lament what it has become, tracking down schoolyard chums to talk about the good old days and compare the idealized past to the reality of the post-Cold War era. Unfortunately, the material is largely inaccessible to the uninformed viewer, or even those who don't know the filmmaker personally. Historical context is mentioned only in passing, and the interviewees—all everyday people, filtering sociopolitical movements through their own narrow experience—aren't even identified. In a handheld, homemade film just 80 minutes long, lingering on an inexplicable astronaut exhibit or an old woman prattling about a cold front renders the project even more inaccessible.

Which is too bad, as the now Paris-based Urzua clearly has a powerful message to share that has something to do with the poignant list of names and places that close the film—her childhood friends who have moved away to points far flung.
Distributor: First Run/Icarus
Director/Producer: Camila Guzman Urzua
Genre: Documentary; Spanish-language, subtitled
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 80 min.
Release date: July 25, 2007 NY
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